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One Little Indian - Disney DVD Review

One Little Indian

Theatrical Release: June 1973 / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Bernard McEveety

Cast: James Garner (Clint Keyes), Vera Miles (Doris McIver), Pat Hingle (Capt. Stewart), Morgan Woodward (Sgt. Raines), John Doucette (Sgt. Waller), Clay O'Brien (Mark), Robert Pine (Lt. Cummins), Bruce Glover (Schrader), Ken Swofford (Pvt. Dixon), Jay Silverheels (Jimmy Wolf), Andrew Prine (Chaplain), Jodie Foster (Martha McIver)


In One Little Indian, two runaways with different destinations but a common enemy cross paths in the desert of New Mexico. One is Clint Keyes (James Garner), a man charged with mutiny and desertion by the U.S. Calvary, faced with a penalty of death.

The other is a ten-year-old boy (Clay O'Brien) who had been living with a Native American tribe. Past his dark hair and tanned appearance, the boy's pale bottom reveals his white heritage. On account of this, he has been pulled aside from his people by the Calvary. He is baptized, given the name Mark, and then escapes into the desert.

Clint and Mark become a team of sorts, and their combined efforts are able to outwit their pursuers. But Captain Stewart (Pat Hingle) and his men, obsessed with serving justice to Keyes, and are back on his trail in no time.

After shooting the boy, Clint gets formally introduced in the desert The two ride off on the noncompliant Rosie.

Though the runaways develop a genuine rapport, their conflicting targets becomes a central issue. Clint has plans to find freedom in Mexico, while Mark is looking to be reunited with Blue Feather, his mother figure from the tribe.

While its pacing is casual for a film that can be rightfully classified as a western adventure, One Little Indian remains engaging as it explores the chemistry between the man and boy, together on the run. When it relies on sight gags with Clint's disobeident camel Rosient, the film isn't quite as enthralling.

Clint and Mark's journey becomes even more interesting when they encounter the McIvers, a pretty widow (Vera Miles) and her friendly daughter (Jodie Foster, in her second Disney film). The helpful mother-daughter pair seems like the perfect complement to the rough-and-tumble fugitive team, but Clint still plans on pursuing freedom south of the border.

With Stewart and his team remaining merciless and persistent in their trail of Keyes, the film works itself into such a bind that it's forced to stretch believability in order to give the happy ending the audience wishes to see. In spite of this and the pacing issue, One Little Indian winds up being the type of strong family entertainment that one has come to expect of Disney, and it proves satisfying for both children and adults alike.

Vera Miles and Jodie Foster play Doris and Martha McIver, a little family along the way. These are the men on Clint's trail: the U.S. Calvary.

Production values here are a bit higher than most Disney films from this time, which helps One Little Indian stand out from other benign productions of the '70s. This is most evident in the casting of James Garner, in the first of a two-picture deal. The prominent star, in between successful television runs on "Maverick" and "The Rockford Files", heads the cast with a strong central performance, and receives competent support from Vera Miles (no stranger to Disney films). The higher budget also comes through in how Disney shot this on location in Utah, rather than the usual sets and soundstages. The rich scenery, from the mountainous countryside to the vivid blues and tans of the open desert, lend an additional air of credibility, reinforcing that this is a western film and not merely another Disney picture.

One Little Indian may not be a crowning jewel among Disney's canon, and it doesn't hold a high place with audiences the way that some of the studio's films do. But, this heartfelt little story certainly delivers at enlisting young and old alike with its compelling duo of man and boy. Even without many surprises, the film delights.

Buy One Little Indian on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital Mono (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French
Closed Captioned
Release Date: September 7, 2004
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
White Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

One Little Indian is presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, and has been enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Just a few months ago, getting a catalogue film like this in widescreen would have been unheard of, so it is worth commending Disney on their newfound respect for releasing their live action films on DVD. The film looks pretty good for the most part. There's some wear and tear here and there, but not much. A few of the film's many location shots lack consistency; the greater majority hold up well. The accurate and detailed video displays the film's vibrant colors and a satisfying sharpness. Dark scenes are handled quite capably, as are scenes displaying the sands and bright blue skies of Utah countryside. I would guess that this is the best the film has ever looked, but I haven't seen the non-anamorphic DVD put out by Anchor Bay years ago.

The standard Dolby Digital Mono track doesn't make for the best audio experience, but it serves the purpose adequately. Dealing with a location shoot and not a soundstage, the dialogue isn't always easy to hear, especially in the thin recordings. On the other hand, the looped dialogue stands out as being unnatural. The music, by the recently-deceased composer Jerry Goldsmith (coming on the heels of Oscar nominated scores for Planet of the Apes and Patton), is a cut above standard Disney film instrumentation, even if it feels somewhat confined in this Mono track.

Keyes is shaving. Is there love in the air? Disney's One Little Indian - Main Menu

EXTRAS

No bonus features are provided, which is in line with most of this September 2004 wave of Disney catalogue releases. Also in line are the menus, which offer 16x9 Western-stylized artwork from the film and a score selection on the main screen.

The Disney Films, a fantastic resource written by Leonard Maltin, mentions an amusing trailer for the film featuring James Garner. At the bare minimum, this preview would have been nice to see. And now that James Garner is a regular cast member on the ABC sitcom "8 Simple Rules", you'd think that Disney could sit him down for reflection on his two '70s films and Atlantis voice performance for the studio. But alas, it is not to be. Let's hope when Castaway Cowboy is presumably released to DVD by Disney next year, the opportunity is not missed altogether.

Like the other catalogue titles, this One Little Indian DVD opens with a promo for recent live action Disney movies on home video, which is not accessible from the menus.

One Little Indian, though neither Native American nor Indian. Don't mess with James Garner.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

While it may not stand out as one of the studio's finest films, One Little Indian offers a generally pleasing experience that will entertain most family members. Disney's DVD represents a missed opportunity for bonus features, as there are none. But their presentation of the film, in its original widescreen aspect ratio, is satisfactory. This release is favorable to the out-of-print Anchor Bay disc, and merits at least a rental.

More on the DVD

Related Reviews
Also directed by Bernard McEveety: Napoleon and Samantha (1972)
Also starring Jodie Foster: Candleshoe (1978) | Freaky Friday (1977)
Also starring Clay O'Brien: The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)
Also starring Vera Miles: Those Calloways (1965) | Follow Me, Boys! (1966)

Disney in the '70s:
Hot Lead & Cold Feet (1978) | Pete's Dragon (1977) | The Island at the Top of the World (1974)

Reviewed August 28, 2004.

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